A hushed silence fell over The Ultimate Fighter gym a week ago, and the same scene set the stage for the latest episode as Marco Olano left the Octagon with a brace on his arm, pieces of his shattered dream left in a trail behind him.
Olano suffered a broken forearm as a result of an Erick Montano takedown in last week's elimination round fight. Silva attempted a throw from the body lock and, as Montano braced himself for impact, his bone gave way and his arm got twisted like a pretzel, which obviously stopped the fight early in the first round. Montano got the win, although it was not the way he wanted to walk away victorious. To his credit, there was no overzealous celebration.
Instead, virtually everybody from Team Gastelum and Team Escudero alike joined together to rally around Olano as he left the gym and went to the hospital to get treated.
The broken arm was a stark reminder for everybody in the competition that being eliminated from this show can happen thanks to something as unpredictable as an arm coming down in the wrong place on the mat. Olano's injury rings even louder in the mind of Horacio Gutierrez after he suffered an ankle injury and then got picked to compete next, as Team Gastelum matched him up with Danny Salas in the next elimination round fight.
While Gutierrez tried to put on a brave face and keep the other team from seeing him limp around the house, word of his injury obviously leaked out and he was selected to fight in just a few days. Gutierrez refused to let an ankle injury knock him out of the fight or the competition, so he pushed forward with new resolve, although even he admitted it was impossible not to think about his ailment as the bout with Salas drew near.
"I'm worried, but I'm trying not to think about it," Gutierrez said
To help Gutierrez prepare for Salas' heavy grappling style, Coach Efrain Escudero brings in former Strikeforce champion and current No. 1 ranked women's bantamweight fighter Miesha Tate to help with his training while also assisting the rest of the team with some drills to help them prepare for what's coming for them in the remainder of the season.
Tate was a coach on The Ultimate Fighter just a couple of seasons ago and she ultimately ended up working with both competitors who won in their respective weight divisions, with Chris Holdsworth and Julianna Pena both becoming TUF champions in 2013. Tate is a leader in her gym, where she works with a laundry list of top fighters, including her boyfriend and top 10-ranked bantamweight Bryan Caraway, who also stops by to help her demonstrate some techniques this week.
Tate spends a lot of time working with Gutierrez to show him escapes and reversals against the cage to counter Salas' wrestling and grappling. Tate is so impressed with Gutierrez's willingness to listen and learn that she promises to return in a couple of days when he fights Salas to show her support.
Back at the house, both teams get a welcome surprise when Olano returns from the hospital with his arm in a sling but no worse for wear when it comes to any kind of permanent damage from the injury. Olano is in good spirits, which only helps the morale for everybody in the house who left the gym worried about his injured arm. Olano promises to stay at the house and continue to cheer on Team Escudero from the sidelines, even if he's no longer able to perform.
Following the weigh-ins, Gutierrez and Salas prepare to battle it out in the next elimination fight between Team Gastelum and Team Escudero – and, as promised, Tate makes an appearance to show her support. Tate's arrival helps motivate Gutierrez even more to go out and win to impress a fighter he calls a real superstar in MMA.
Salas may not have a top-ranked fighter cheering him on, but he has plenty riding on this fight as he hopes to win this bout and win a few more until he's The Ultimate Fighter champion come November. Salas says it's his dream to train and prepare for fights full-time, and winning the show will allow him that luxury, so he promises that nothing is going to stop him.
When the fight begins, it's clear Salas wants to negate Gutierrez on the feet as he initiates the clinch over and over again while pressing the fight against the cage. Salas is relentless early as he attempts takedowns, but even when he finally lands one, Gutierrez is able to get back to his feet again. Salas keeps up the pressure as the opening round comes to a close, but it's clear after a hard fought effort that the Team Gastelum fighter might be running out of gas.
The second round spun around for Gutierrez, as he was able to resist the takedown attempts and employ a superior striking game to tag Salas repeatedly with quick, hard combinations on the feet. It was clear the tide was turning as Gutierrez was fresh and fast while Salas was breathing hard and gasping for air. At the end of the first 10 minutes, the fight was knotted up at one round apiece, so Gutierrez and Salas went to sudden victory.
In between rounds, Escudero urged Gutierrez to look at his opponent in the other corner, slouched over and barely able to raise his head. That extra mental edge was all Gutierrez needed as he went out in the third round and planted Salas on the mat and proceeded to dominate the grappler on the ground. Gutierrez nearly pulled off a fight-ending submission as well, but Salas was able to wiggle free and make it to the final bell.
When it was all over, Gutierrez got the decision win as he celebrated with tears of joy and a big hug from Tate, who watched the entire performance from cageside.
"I'm happy," Gutierrez said. "It's like the fight I've dreamt all my life in the UFC. It's a war."
The win got Team Escudero on the board for the first time, and now with control on their side, the fight selection moved back to the welterweights, as top pick Kevin Medinilla will take on Enrique Marin from Team Gastelum. It's now up to Medinilla to keep the momentum going as he hopes to secure his first win on the show while keeping control firmly planted with Team Escudero for another week.